Senators preview legal challenges to GMO labeling law

Dr. Michael Hansen (left), with the Consumers Union, disputes the testimony of Dr. Val Giddings, of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, at a hearing on GMO labeling. Photo by Hilary Niles/VTDigger

Dr. Michael Hansen (left), with the Consumers Union, disputes the testimony of Dr. Val Giddings, of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, at a hearing on GMO labeling. Photo by Hilary Niles/VTDigger

State lawmakers got a sneak preview Wednesday of the court battle that likely awaits if they pass a law requiring genetically modified foods sold in Vermont to be labeled.

Industry representatives both for and against a labeling law gave heated testimony at the Statehouse to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, where a bill that already passed the House now awaits action.

H.112 would mandate that most packaged foods be labeled if they contain genetically modified organisms. As currently written, dairy products, alcohol and meat, plus restaurant food, would be exempted from the law.

Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, chair of Senate Judiciary, said he supports the bill, but his biggest concerns are the potential cost of litigation and the dairy exemption.

Assistant Attorney General Bridget Asay testified that the state may spend about $1 million defending the law in court. Even if it is successful, she said it would be hard to recover legal fees. If the state lost, the legal challenge could cost $5 million or more. The estimate includes the state’s costs and potential reimbursement for a victorious plaintiff.

Given the size of the potential price tag, Sears says, he wants to make sure the law is failsafe.

To that end, the hearing Wednesday served as a preview of what challenges opponents may lodge against the pending legislation. Sears said the expert testimony opposing a labeling law comprised the first negative comments his committee had heard, though the Senate Agriculture Committee previously gathered opposing views in their deliberations.

Potential amendments

As senators finalize the bill for a committee vote by the end of March, two major amendments emerge as possibilities: One to require a legal defense fund to cover the costs of litigation, and another to eliminate the dairy exemption for fear it may undermine the bill’s viability in court.

Asay conveyed Attorney General Bill Sorrell’s concerns about a proposal to pass the bill only if a privately funded legal defense fund would be established to cover the expense of legal challenges.

“If the Legislature concludes that a proposed law serves the public interest and should be adopted notwithstanding the possibility of a legal challenge, it should pass the law and assume the cost of its defense,” Sorrell wrote in a letter to Sears.

GMO label SLIDER“Quite frankly that boxes us in,” Sears told Asay at the hearing. He said he thinks it would be irresponsible to set the state up for a potentially costly lawsuit without setting aside the money to pay for it.

Sen. Jeanette White, D-Windham, said she’s troubled by the prospect of setting a precedent for only supporting what can be backed by wealthy interests.

The legal defense fund idea was not part of the Senate Agriculture bill, Sears acknowledged after the hearing, but he said that doesn’t mean the idea can’t be revisited.

Leaving dairy out of the bill was a strategic move on the part of VPIRG.

“We wanted to make the law about genetically modified foods,” said Falko Schilling, a lobbyist for the Vermont Public Interest Research Group. “Milk itself is not genetically modified,” Schilling said, even though milk-producing animals may consume GMO grains.

VPIRG’s pro bono legal counsel, the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic at the Vermont Law School, testified that case law also supports the exemption. Andrew Homan cited the failed regulation of the growth hormone rBST as a lesson that any object of labeling regulation must be provably different from the products that don’t require labels.

Milk samples from animals that have and have not consumed GMO grains have not been proven compositionally distinct, he said. Therefore, they should be treated the same. Genetically modified ingredients in food products, however, can be detected.

Still, Sears wants assurance.

“Do we have a reason, that can be defended in court, that exempts dairy and not corn chips,” he asked. “Or is it because Vermont is a big dairy state?”

legal arguments

The issue of milk’s composition presages a deeper legal argument behind GMO product labeling.

A potential lawsuit would hinge on several legal arguments: First Amendment rights and protections against compelled speech, “equal protection” laws, rules prohibiting conflict between state and federal laws, and the so-called “dormant commerce” clause saying states can’t make laws that will have adverse impact on interstate commerce.

Beneath these legal questions brews a morass of conflicting opinions, contradictory scientific reports and varying interpretations about federal policy on GMOs — or lack thereof.

The differences are critical because many legal arguments — especially that of compelled speech — revolve around whether or not GMO products are different, and whether the information contained in a label is “fact.”

Wednesday morning, labeling supporters said the federal Food and Drug Administration had not determined whether or not GMO foods are safe. But labeling opponents said the FDA had clearly determined that they are.

Stanley Abramson, an attorney with Arent Fox PLLC who represents the Biotechnology Industry Organization, as well as global agricultural firm Monsanto, is a former lawyer for the Environmental Protection Agency and a principal drafter of the federal government’s Coordinated Framework for Regulation of Biotechnology. Abramson testified by phone from Washington, D.C., to caution against the labeling law.

He said the FDA’s position is that GMO food should be held to the same safety standards as anything raised through traditional breeding techniques. This implies the two groups of food are “substantially similar” and therefore should be treated equally under the law. Any labeling requirement to distinguish GMO food would be misleading, Abramson testified.

Abramson’s position was echoed by Dr. Val Giddings, a geneticist by training who now works as a private consultant and who testified as senior fellow at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation in Silver Springs, Md. Giddings and Dr. Michael Hansen, a senior staff scientist with the Consumers Union, differed emphatically on bodies of science surrounding GMO foods.

Giddings testified at length about a lack of credible scientific evidence that GMO foods pose any risks.

“If the state decides to move into that sphere of deciding what needs to be placed on the label, there is a risk it will be in violation of that federal standard,” Abramson said.

The flip side of federal law and policy treating GMO and non-GMO food equally is that there is no mention of GMO products in the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. When it comes to the interplay between federal and state laws, federal statutes hold sway. No state law can preempt a law of the nation.

“The state requirement to label does not conflict with any federal law because there is none,” said Hanses, of the Consumers Union.

The other member of VPIRG’s counsel at the hearing, Laura Murphy, said similar labeling laws bolster the state’s defense on the grounds of interstate commerce.

Should it pass, H.112 would not take effect for one or two years, to allow time for rule making by the state and compliance among food producers. Asay noted, however, that if any parties intend to sue over the law, they likely would file suit very quickly after passage, not waiting for the effective date to roll around.

UPDATE: This article was updated at 1:45 p.m. on Thursday, March 20, 2014.

Hilary Niles

Comments

  1. Al Salzman :

    The news that France has just outlawed GMO corn should underscore the urgency for passing the GMO labeling bill. At the very least, we have a right to know what we are ingesting. It is a no-brainer! Monsanto’s threat to take legal action is brazen extortion, equivalent to mafia thugs threatening violence to collect protection money. Every Vermonter worth his or her salt should stand up against this corporate thuggery. It should, by no means, impede the passage of the labeling law.

    • Karissa Campbell :

      Well said!! The fact that there is such a battle over this to begin with is just awful. Corporate thuggery at its worst!!

    • Jamie Carter :

      Interestingly the EU has funded over 130 studies carried out by more then 500 independent researchers on GMO’s and GMO safety, not one single study has shown any special risk associated with a GM crop.

      Makes it crazy that Frances government passed a law that directly opposes the findings of their scientists…

      • Bottom line Round Up is the #1 cause of birth defects. Just one premature baby can cost millions. Huge burden on parents, society, and healthcare.

        Dr. Michael Hansen and Dr. Charles Benbrook have both confirmed that Round up is dumbing down our children by attacking brain cells (is neurotoxin) in the fetus so crippled before even born then continue to feed in formula and even breastmilk.

        Leah Zerbe, Online Editor, Rodale Press/Research Institute and Organic Farmer said Rodale has reported the cost of even a couple of IQ points lost is devastating to our country for ideas and innovation lost.

        Rodale research showed higher yields and less water used with organic farming than any other type over 30 year research period. Think water should also be at forefront of issue.

        Leah said bottom line Round Up/GMOs designed to stop weed problem. Has failed miserably and now super weeds.

        Latest report is corn borer worms (GMOs designed to kill) that also are resistant so created super bugs and weeds.

        Lots of research on harmful effects of pesticide and is #1 cause of birth defects and lowering IQ in our children.

        Leah said Round Up is everywhere including the rain. Billion pounds used last year.

        Why use when better off with organic?

        Less than 1% of billion in farm bill goes to farmers growing fruits and vegetables yet USDA say half the plate should be just that.

        Why all the farm bill/tax payer billions just going to dairy, meat, GMO corn/biofuel, practically nothing to the foods that prevent chronic disease?

        Look at the big picture. Have not even factored in citizen burden for environmental clean up/destruction. Oil spill today just destroyed another river/preserve. Can you put a price on that?

        • J. Scott Cameron :

          Umm, we’re talking about GMOs dear. Roundup is an herbicide. Just sayin’.

          • Barry Kade :

            Yes, Roundup is an herbicide. GM crops are designed to be “Roundup Ready”, meaning they can tolerate the herbicide. Now that the weeds are building their own resistance to Roundup, more of it is used and ending up in our food. Rather “your food.” I avoid it where I can.

  2. “Virtually all commercial GMOs are engineered to withstand direct application of herbicide and/or to produce an insecticide. Despite biotech industry promises, none of the GMO traits currently on the market offer increased yield, drought tolerance, enhanced nutrition, or any other consumer benefit.

    Meanwhile, a growing body of evidence connects GMOs with health problems, environmental damage and violation of farmers’ and consumers’ rights. –

    Read the whole story here:

    http://www.nongmoproject.org/learn-more/

    -Here,Carman explains, “At a commercial piggery in the US, we took 168 just-weaned pigs and fed them a typical diet for the piggery, containing soy and corn, for 22.7 weeks (over 5 months) until the pigs were slaughtered at their usual slaughter age. Half of the pigs were fed widely-used varieties of GM soy and GM corn (the GM-fed group) for this whole period, and the other half of the pigs were fed an equivalent non-GM diet (the control group). The GM diet contained three GM genes and therefore three GM proteins. One protein made the plant resistant to a herbicide, and two proteins were insecticides.”

    In short, this mixture of GMO foods led to a toxic mix in the digestive tract of the animals, leading to a reduced ability for GMO-fed pigs to reproduce. The pigs were studied from conception until slaughter (the first long term study of its kind) and all were all affected adversely. Female pigs were found to have the following possible pathologies, measured through careful analysis and post-mortem examination:

    · Endometrial hyperplasia

    · Carcinoma

    · Endometritis

    · Endometriosis

    · Adenomyosis

    · Inflammation

    · Thickening of the myometrium

    · Larger presence of polyps

    · Further, the uteri of the GMO-fed pigs were fluid filled compared to the pigs who weren’t fed a GMO diet.

    · The uteri of the pigs who consumed GMO food were 25% larger than non-GMO fed pigs.

    · Inflammation of the stomach and small intestine

    · Stomach ulcers

    · Stomach inflammation

    · Thinning of intestinal walls

    · Increase in hemorrhaging bowels (this causes the pigs to bleed to death from the bowels).

    Among these horrendous findings, scientists also noted that none of these types of results have been reported in the biochemistry tests performed by Monsanto or other companies in the GM industry.-

    Read the whole story here:

    http://www.nationofchange.org/first-long-term-study-released-pigs-cattle-who-eat-gmo-soy-and-corn-offers-frightening-results-13723

    • Patrick Cashman :

      Or perhaps not.
      You may want to look at Mark Lynas’ take on the above study at http://www.marklynas.org/2013/06/gmo-pigs-study-more-junk-science/

      • Melissa Moon :

        Mark Lynas is now on the corporate payroll and is frequently trotted out by biotech as someone who has miraculously ‘seen the light’ as he now endorses GE food.

        “Junk Science” is the stock biotech phrase used to discredit any and all questioning of genetic engineering and its products.

        Everything he says should be considered suspect.

        • Jamie Carter :

          Hmmm, lets see we can believe Judy Carmen, a know anti-GMO advocate and her non-peer reviewed data or we can believe her peers who indicate that the data supports pretty much non of her conclusions. Her statistics do not agree with her conclusions, which is why this was never a published study but rather hogwash added to her website GMOJudy.org. Besides Lyman it has been discredited by many other of her peers

          Dr. Kniss
          “If I were to have analyzed these data, using the statistical techniques that I was taught were appropriate for the type of data, I would have concluded there was no statistical difference in stomach inflammation between the pigs fed the two different diets. ”

          Dr. Tribe

          ““Instead of a well formulated prior hypothesis the investigation consists of a survey of a fairly large number of parameters -18 are mentioned in one table, 17 in another, and there is no necessary statistical analysis to check for false discovery of effects because of repeated searching for differences.”d

          Dr. Hoofnagle

          “Looking at the data there were no differences in any of the major variables evaluated by the study, such as weights, veterinary costs, illnesses, or mortality. No significant differences in blood biochemistry were found. ”

          To top it off despite making the claim that pigs being fed GMO-feed had higher incidents of stomach imflamation her data actually shows the opposite, there were less pigs with stomach imflammation in the GMO fed pigs then the non-gmo fed pigs.

        • Patrick Cashman :

          Actually Lynas has advocated for labeling on the basis of consumer right to know. He just points out the completely baseless demagoguery of the anti-GMO crowd. In this case, the particular study referenced above.
          From his speech at the food integrity summit available at http://www.marklynas.org/2013/10/why-we-need-to-label-gmos/

          ” So those of us who want to defend science and who understand the true potential of biotechnology have no option – we have to change the game. My challenge to the biotechnology industry – the whole food industry in general in fact – is very clear. You have to stop opposing labelling. Instead, you have to embrace the consumer right to know. To lose this entire debate to a motley coalition of anti-vaccine quacks, organic food charlatans, naturopathic nutjobs and magic soap manufacturers would not just be a tragedy for humanity, it would be frankly rather embarrassing. This cannot be allowed to happen.”

    • Barry Kade :

      Would Monsanto really want a trial where such evidence could be presented that there really is a difference between GM and natural produce? Is the talk of a lawsuit a bluff?

  3. Ruth Sproull :

    It’s hard to understand why it would be controversial (making the State legally vulnerable) to require producers of our food to tell us what’s in it. Maybe the solution is for those who DO NOT use GMOs to clearly label their foods as such. That would leave all the others as GMO-laced and would be a clear tip- off to consumers.

    • Jamie Carter :

      This makes too much sense for the Vermont Legislature.

  4. Janice Prindle :

    The companies that might engage in a legal challenge will have a hard time explaining why they refuse to do in Vermont/the U.S. what they already do in Europe, to sell to the European markets which do, most of them, require this labeling (where they allow GMO foods at all). And if Vermont adopts this law, we join Connecticut and Maine, and begin to create a critical mass of states that will drive the rest of the country to do the same. Massachusetts is also considering this legislation.

    There is a lot at stake here beyond our right to know what we are eating. Our industrial food system — resting on the inter-dependency of GMO commodity crops and their deadly pesticides that wipe out all forms of life, even micro-organisms needed to replenish the soil, pesticides that also end up in the GMO-based food products we eat–are a huge threat to the environment, not just to our health.

    The FDA has declined to do any testing whatsoever of GMO product safety, relying on the assertions of Monsanto and its allies, surprise surprise, because the department’s food policy is in the hands of former Monsanto executives — there is a revolving door between the company and the agency that regulates it. Worse, the company and its allies have used their major donor status to shape research policy (i.e. quash research into GMOs) at U.S. land-grant colleges and universities. See “Public Research, Private Gain” by the independent nonprofit environmental group, Food and Water Watch. It’s available online. And of course, Monsanto contracts with farmers expressly prohibit their using any of the seed for research.

    Any company that has a history of profit from killer chemicals like thalidomide and Agent Orange, and which is spending billions of dollars to suppress independent research and public information, ought to challenged in the public interest. This is the place to start, and I hope our legislators will not let fear stand in their way. The public wants this. We need this.

  5. Char Kennedy :

    All of us have a right to know what is being put into our food chain. While our garden with organic seeds and plants provides a lot of our food not all of it can grow there. So we want to know what we are ingesting and then be allowed to choose what ingredients we will purchase.

    • Jamie Carter :

      How can you possible know what is put into the food chain? Are you aware that more then 8% of your DNA is not human? Do you know that naturally occurring plants have been found with 6 genomes worth of foreign DNA? The swapping of foreign DNA is one of the primary mechanisms by which evolution is affected. Just because you go buy wheat that isn’t GM doesn’t mean that it’s DNA is only wheat, in fact there is pretty much a guarantee it’s not. Go buy non-GMO corn seed and plant it, I bet the farm you will find some virus DNA in it’s genome. So with all due respect despite what you may think, you do not know what you are ingesting from your own garden anymore then what you buy at the store, at least not on a genetic level.

  6. Jamie Carter :

    Please do not use obvious sites with an agenda as sometype of proof for your argument. The internet has become a great tool for information, however I believe it will be the down fall of our society with all the misinformation that is presented…

    Regarding the proposed law… It would seem to me it would be easier and just as effective for non-gmo farmers to label their products as such. This accomplishes the same thing, and yet it does not compel anyone else to do anything against their will, while meeting constitutional mustard. Why is it people always want to “make” someone else do something instead of simply doing something themselves.

  7. Michael Colby :

    If the GMO-related issues weren’t so serious it would be entertaining to watch, listen and read about all the contorted positions of the weak-kneed liberals pushing the GMO-labeling bill. On one hand, they talk about how dangerous and threatening these products are to people and the environment. Then they want us to believe that a label will somehow address these problems. If only they could teach the monarch butterflies to read….

    But it gets worse. Because the advocates of the GMO-labeling bill are exempting dairy and meat products from the label requirement, thus ignoring the number one crop being grown in Vermont: GMO corn (80,000-plus acres of it, all for our dairy cows). And to defend this complete and total sell-out to the likes of Ben & Jerry’s (funders of their efforts, by the way) and Cabot, they employ the Monsanto Corporation’s ridiculous argument that “there is no difference” between GMO and non-GMO dairy and meat products.

    Again, about those butterflies…and corporate monopolization of the food supply…and the increased pesticide use being seen with GMO crops…

    Never mind, they’ve got a bill to pass. Forget that the bill is weak and ineffective and offers little more than a fast-track to the Supreme Court.

    In the comment above by Al Salzman, he says, “The news that France has just outlawed GMO corn should underscore the urgency for passing the GMO labeling.” Actually, Al, the news from France only shows how weak Vermont’s GMO-labeling bill is.

    If Vermont wants to address the GMO issue in a serious manner, we must first start with addressing the tens of thousands of acres of GMO corn being grown right here on our soil and being fed to our animals. That’s what the rest of the world is doing by moving towards BANS on GMO crops. Vermont should get serious and join them.

    The GMO-labeling bill is nothing more than an expensive distraction.

    • Paula Schramm :

      Michael Colby – the ” weak-kneed liberals” are smarter than you in understanding what bill has the likelihood to stand up in court against a suit from Monsanto et al.
      The issue of milk & meat exemption is presented in a very confusing way in the article, but the gist of it is that the FDA has specific regulations about milk & meat, and that would allow a challenge based on federal law superseding state law. Whereas :

      “The flip side of federal law and policy treating GMO and non-GMO food equally is that there is no mention of GMO products in the federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. When it comes to the interplay between federal and state laws, federal statutes hold sway. No state law can preempt a law of the nation.

      “The state requirement to label does not conflict with any federal law because there is none,” said Hanses, of the Consumers Union.”

      Voila ! There you have it. So Sen.Sears’ question “was the exemption just because Vermont is a dairy state?” was answered. It was very interesting to sit in on yesterday’s hearing & get the chance to understand the legal arguments better. Makes me feel very positive that this bill is strong enough, and perhaps the bio-techs, etc. are pulling a good bluff, and won’t bother suing us after all this is done.
      I agree with Mark Lynas ( in Patrick Cashman’s comment ) : ” My challenge to the biotechnology industry – the whole food industry in general in fact – is very clear. You have to stop opposing labelling. Instead, you have to embrace the consumer right to know”.
      Let’s get on with it, and join the rest of the world !

  8. Jamie Carter :

    Here is an interesting note, it is projected to take a near doubling of current crops simply to feed the worlds population by the year 2050 (that’s about 35 years folks). We can waste all the money we want on climate change and fighting GMO labeling, but it isn’t going to do much good when your children starve to death because there simple is not enough food and we do not have the capacity to grow more.

    It’s time a choice is made, should we pursue increasing our food supply through GMO’s, or should we limit the number of offspring people can have. Those are really your only available options. Go ahead and choose, do you want grandchildren, or do you want to use something that has been done for billions of years already, insertion of foreign DNA that provides an evolutionary benefit to a plant allowing it to successfully out compete other plants.

    • Paula Schramm :

      Jamie Carter – You are setting up a false dichotomy : there are plenty of cases where GMO crops are not more productive than other crops and other methods of agriculture. So it is not a choice of GMOs or starving people. Do some more reading…..
      One good place to start is “Stolen Harvest” by Vandana Shiva. It’s from 2000, so there are more recent works, but it’s a good place to start to get a big-perspective view about GMO technology claims of being able to “feed the world”. I have lived in India and Kenya, and I can see that any agriculture where the local farmer cannot save his own varieties of seed, or make crosses for local conditions , is ultimately going to fail in the third world.
      I remember “the Green Revolution” from the 70’s that was supposed be the answer to the world’s food problems, and fell short.
      This is a complex issue ! We right now produce enough food to feed everyone in the world, yet still millions of people are starving or malnourished. Meeting this challenge is about so much more than the supposed “magic” of GMO technology, and in fact this agricultural model can potentially make things worse .

  9. rosemarie jackowski :

    This has been going on way too long. Consumers need information. We need an AG who is willing to go up against Monsanto and the rest of them.

    http://dissidentvoice.org/2008/02/monsantos-udder-disgrace/

  10. Scott Richardson :
    • Paula Schramm :

      This is not a particularly well-written article and makes some pretty sweeping generalizations that ignore or marginalize scientific and environmentalist concern around the world about the GMO industrial agriculture model. This issue is not about what a few “post-Occupy lefties” and other assorted”crazies” think, but a serious world-wide debate about what kinds of agriculture will be sustainable and will feed the world. The jury is definitely out about GMO agriculture being “the answer”, no matter what Bill Gates thinks. If you are an environmentalist or ecologist, you cannot help but be alarmed by what has happened with agriculture in this country, and you can understand why 64 countries have labeling of GMO products in food. Many countries are showing some wisdom in being more careful & aware about tracking what crops they import or grow.
      I agree with everyone here who says it’s common sense, and not that big a deal to ask for GMO products in our food to be labeled. The bio-techs “doth protest too much” !

    • James Gill :

      Scott, I think your referenced article ‘hits the nail on the head’. This entire issue is fueled by the environmental religion where ‘unless it is natural, it’s bad’ and the usual lefty crowd vilifying the corporate America.

      With 90% of the food on the shelf containing GMO material, if someone really needs to have ‘produced with genetic engineering’ (statement from H112) and nothing more, printed on a label, then they meet all the qualification for becoming the ‘village idiot’.

  11. Kelly Cummings :

    One commonsense reason to label everything we eat We need to be able to track the foods we eat back to the source.

    Two examples: in the case they need to recall a food or ingredient. In the event something develops that was unforeseen in current studies. Regardless of which side of the issue you come down on.

    Seems we should all be able to agree on this. There is no judgement in this statement. It is just plain ol’ simple commonsense.

  12. Sue Ordinetz :

    Monsanto and other biotech companies hold patents on their genetically altered products. In order to get a patent, you have to prove that your product is unique and different. It is illegal to grant a patent for a naturally occurring entity, so the biotech companies have argued that their products are markedly different from what is found in nature. But when they want to convince the FDA that no research, regulation, or labeling is necessary, they argue that these products are no different than conventional products. So when people want to know whether these unique and different products are in their food, suddenly there is no difference. Which is it? http://www.examiner.com/article/why-fda-approval-of-genetically-modified-organisms-should-be-revoked

    • Jamie Carter :

      An apple is not an apple tree…

      Apples from two trees maybe the same, even if one tree is markedly different from a genetic standpoint. That’s why there are different standards depending on whether you are talking about the plant or the food produced from the plant.

    • Paula Schramm :

      Sue Ordinetz – You have summed it up beautifully !

  13. Brian Tokar :

    Very thorough coverage, and an important discussion here. One thing missing from the article, though, is that Val Giddings was a Vice President for 8 years of the Biotechnology Industry Organization, the leading biotech industry lobby in the US and internationally.

  14. Wayne Andrews :

    I can see the Attorney General all smiles as he defends the suit at a cost of 6 million big ones. Hell no we dont care and actually pat him on the back for the VY case.
    I can just picture the shopping carts parked to and fro between the ailes while the weak kneed liberals read a label that flashes a statement making them feel whole again.
    These liberals wont be happy until we all plant our own rows, mulch with pine needles and sew between with crooked tree branches.
    And you know what is going to be the death of us all? A family of fat woodchucks!

    • Paul Lorenzini :

      That why we shoot tham damn chucks! And thair good eatin too!

      • David Dempsey :

        There not bad, but I prefer the young ones late in the summer after they fatten up a bit. Great organic source of protein.

  15. J. Scott Cameron :

    I love to read the conspiracy theorists. Unfortunately they cause so much harm, e.g., the myth that vaccinations cause autism.

    However, I don’t like Monsanto’s aggressive, anti farmer business practices either.

    If you can go organic do it. You’ll get a good price for your product and it may well be healthier for those who can afford it. However, whether you like it or not, we have a world of seven billion and growing out there. Ban even some of the “non-organic” agricultural innovations that came into being since the 1970’s and most of them starve to death pretty quickly.

  16. Paul Lorenzini :

    Maybe Vermont food producers could set themselves apart by labeling their own products as GMO free? Rise above, and the rest will follow.

  17. Hilary Cooke :

    Most definitely there should be a price tag attached to this legislation. Clarity in labeling? You bet, I am all for knowing what we are eating. I support Sen. Sears’ concern, however, that Vermont taxpayers recognize and affirmatively support the cost of this legislation. What I am troubled with is the fact that cost is being seriously considered so late in the game.

    Perhaps it is time for proponents for this legislation to pony-up the cost to defend this in court. VPIRG may be the perfect stakeholder to finance the defense fund defending the bill’s language that they support. Perhaps the time has come for the legislature to partner with the special interests, like VPIRG. It’s a win-win proposition, right?

    To the Senator who voiced a concern about a precedent….what I am suggesting is precedent.

    • Paula Schramm :

      It was the Attorney General’s office which voiced concern about setting a precedent. I think proponents would be very glad to contribute to a fund to finance the defense. It was a very interesting debate, and perhaps should be debated more. Does the state only legislate when there are enough rich individuals willing to pay for it ?

      • Hilary Cooke :

        The idea of having proponents of legislation fund the expenses of enacting a bill (like VPIRG with the GMO bill) may simply serve to codify what is already legislative practice.
        I agree, this is an interesting debate…one where the mechanics may just as important as the content.

  18. So, eating crops with a gene that produces an insecticide within the plant is of no concern to the doubters? Planting seeds that cannot reproduce and can cross pollinate with heritage seeds (and stops their ability to reproduce) gives no concern to the doubters? The fact that these seeds are produced with the intent to withstand treatment of Roundup has no concern from the doubters? Ok, let’s watch the doubters, they are the test subjects.

  19. Well put, Ray Giroux!

  20. Vanessa Mills :

    It all boils down to the same thing. Energy monopolozation, Big Agriculture, Big Pharma. ALL THE SAME THING. Isn’t it that 5 families control the world’s wealth? And these families own the corporate conglomerations that hypnotize the people with advertisements and that pay the lobbyists that shape the laws that govern the people. All while the people sit home after a hard day’s work and watch their televisions and buy into the themes that tell us how dissatisfied we are with what we have so we’ll buy, buy, buy. While people buy what the commmercials tell them to buy and eat what the commercials tell them to eat and throw away this season’s toys and clothes and cheap, seasonal chotchkes and excess food. We intuitively (but vaguely) hunger for something else and yet we all just keep our heads down, put our noses to the grindstone, and repeatedly turn to what the corporations tell us to eat, buy, wear, think. All part of an unsustainable runaway train. Until we realize that consumers have the power in the dollars they hold and choose to spend/not spend wisely, we will lie down for more of the same. Knowledge is power but corporations like us tired, sugared, distracted and dissatisfied: so they can keep selling us quick fixes with no substance so we’ll think we gotta buy more, and soon.

    Anyone who thinks Monsanto doesn’t have power is kidding themselves and this simply perpetuates what already rolls on.

    “Small-scale” and “keep it local” are the proactive mantras that could save us. But look at everything Shumlin advocates for and seeks administrators for: alignment with out-of-the country power companies and stripping municipalities of their say. If you want your say over your food and your water and your town and your state, use your voice and your vote.

    And where ever you can: think about this one: Grow your own where you can. Make your own. Try these things just once and you’ll get the feel for the VALUE of LOCAL. The closer to home it comes to you the better. The closer to “real, living, fresh, whole” it looks, the better for you!
    And if you can’t keep on making or growing local….pay your local farmers and makers to do it for you. Use your dollars locally
    and value local and know your farmers! This is real. It’s a movement that makes sense, for our health, for our pocketbooks, for our co2s reduction, for the ripple effects it can have, for a sustainable future in Vermont.

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